SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx visited South Portland on Tuesday at Southern Maine Community College to discuss coronavirus response and testing efforts in college campus settings.
The trip to South Portland marked Birx’s first trip to a community college in her series of visits to college campuses. Last week, she was in Boston and Cambridge where she met with university and state leaders.
The discussions come amid warnings from Birx about the “silent” spread of the coronavirus in the northeast, nodding to early warning signs that were seen across the south after Memorial Day. Birx attributed the recent spike in cases in New England states to social gatherings and relaxed personal behavior.
Birx said the reason they're concerned about the upper northeast in general "is because you all have done so well," so far with containing the spread.
“The virus is in every state. The question is, do we have the right systems in place right now to detect this silent spread?” Birx said Tuesday before the roundtable. “We see the physical distancing, the masks in public spaces. We need people to focus on personal protection. Where people are getting fatigued and letting down their guard is in private settings.”
Birx said so far Maine has done really well in terms of containing the spread of COVID-19, but says the virus can spread silently without proactive testing. Overall, Birx said she’s impressed with northeast colleges—community colleges in particular—who have implemented testing and have low positivity rates.
Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, which is headed by Vice President Mike Pence, have criticized President Donald Trump over his lax outlook on the coronavirus.
On Monday, Trump held his first rally since contracting the virus, speaking to a crowd of thousands of shoulder-to-shoulder supporters—mostly without masks—in Florida.
At one point during the rally, Trump said "I feel so powerful,” after talking about the experimental medication and other VIP treatment he received. “I’ll walk into that audience. I'll walk in there, I’ll kiss everyone in that audience. I’ll kiss the guys and the beautiful women ... everybody. I’ll just give ya a big fat kiss.”
When asked about the safety of Trump having large rallies, Birx said she gives everyone the same advice, including the President: wear a mask, practice social distancing, and practice good hygiene.
Maine Community College leadership, state and local officials, and health care professionals joined Birx for the roundtable discussion, which was closed to the press.
This story will be updated.